All Fall Down was the first book of this year that I was super excited to read. My friends had hyped it up to me, the five star reviews were flooding in and it was everywhere in the book shops. Unfortunately, books that have received a lot of hype have, in the past, disappointed me (I’m looking at you, City of Bones) so in spite of my excitement there was always an undercurrent of dread within me that the book would let me down somehow. Thankfully no such situation occurred, and my expectations were met and exceeded!
Grace is a fantastic protagonist. She has the courage of her convictions and a fearlessness and determination I wish I possessed, plus she’s witty and sarcastic and an all-round likeable person. Yet despite her ferocity she’s also immensely fragile. Her characterisation is great, but the fact that she’s an unreliable narrator adds another dimension to her that made her stand out: no matter how much you like her you can never fully trust her. This certainly helped to build tension as the plot progressed because as a reader you never quite knew who to believe. The secondary characters were also brilliantly conceived. The core group of kids all had valuable skills to contribute and it didn’t matter if they were twelve years old or twenty; they all got involved and formed strong friendships that didn’t feel rushed or forced. It was all very inclusive with different nationalities, genders etc. And the adults weren’t just pushed to the side-lines and ignored either as they can be in some YA series.
In terms of romance there was relatively little. Not even a kiss! Whatever hints were there were well written and could quite easily progress and develop naturally into something more serious in future books, but it didn’t overpower the action, which was the driving force of the plot, or the set-up of what’s to come next. I’m also pleased to report that there were no clichés to deal with. No love triangles, no best-friend-turns-boyfriend stuff, nothing! Carter’s writing style is one that appeals to me very much, with its clever dialogue and believable descriptive passages all rolled into one. It’s easy to understand but doesn’t feel childish in any way. She invokes a great deal of sympathy for Grace in gradually revealing her backstory but also for those around her, so by the end I no longer saw any of the characters as definitively good or bad.
While we’re on the subject, for a YA book All Fall Down had some quite dark undertones stemming from its classification as a thriller. However, Carter explored things in a way that didn’t feel overbearing or inappropriate for the story whilst at the same time not shying away from anything. It was a good balance. And omigod that PLOT TWIST! Totally unexpected! If you like books that catch you off guard then do yourself a favour and pick this up.
The cover. Yuck. The UK paperback edition is not my cup of tea at all. It makes the whole thing seem juvenile and doesn’t do the content justice! I borrowed the book from the local library until I could purchase my own copy in hardback with my preferred cover because I disliked it that strongly. It’s well worth the read though, so if you can get over that little obstacle then you’re on to a winner.
Also, I now have to wait until 2016 for the next book. A whole year! I don’t know how I will survive this long!
With this novel Ally Carter has propelled herself to the top of my list of favourite authors. Five out of five stars; and well deserved they are too! There was mystery aplenty, drama, action, humour and just a hint of romance. For me it was the perfect blend of all these elements and I simply cannot wait to see how the story unfolds. Bring on book two!